Commentary Magazine


Topic: Rahm Emanuel

RE: Rabbis Spun by Rahm Emanuel

COMMENTARY contributor Abby Wisse Schachter points out that it may be the rabbis — or one, at least — who were doing the spinning. Citing a JTA article, she writes:

“Moline, a Conservative rabbi at Congregation Agudas Achim in Alexandria, Va., initiated the meetings after a talk he had with his friend Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, about the Obama administration’s perceived lack of friendliness toward Israel.” So it wasn’t Obama, or Jewy-Jew Emanuel who were worried about Jewish support eroding. It was Moline who was already a self-declared Obama booster who decided it was time to have the White House help a bunch of pulpit rabbis to write their Shabbat sermons. And it seems to have worked. “The rabbis in attendance … took the message home. ‘Our president is every bit as committed to Israel’s safety and security as any previous administration,’ Rabbi Aaron Rubinger said in a May 8 Shabbat morning sermon at Congregation Ohev Shalom, a Conservative synagogue in Orlando, Fla. ‘I do not believe the president is abandoning Israel or has any intention of abandoning Israel.'”

This is the state of at least a significant segment of American Jewry — desperate to shill for Obama, blind to the peril that Israel faces, and oblivious to the historical legacy that awaits them, as well as their precious president, if Iran goes nuclear — or if Israel is forced to do what the U.S. should, namely, use military force to defuse an existential threat to the Jewish state. Again we must ask:

What is it about liberals and the longing for what Neal Kozodoy once so brilliantly called “the ratifying kick in the teeth”? Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?

And the mainstream Jewish organizations are no better, failing to sound the alarm and incapable of taking on a president whose name remains affixed to the bumpers of so many of their members’ cars. For those who portray themselves as leaders of the Jewish community and friends of Israel but who, as one Israel hand e-mails, “cling to liberalism, secularism and pacifism,” there is now the stark reality that they do so at the expense of the Jewish state.

COMMENTARY contributor Abby Wisse Schachter points out that it may be the rabbis — or one, at least — who were doing the spinning. Citing a JTA article, she writes:

“Moline, a Conservative rabbi at Congregation Agudas Achim in Alexandria, Va., initiated the meetings after a talk he had with his friend Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, about the Obama administration’s perceived lack of friendliness toward Israel.” So it wasn’t Obama, or Jewy-Jew Emanuel who were worried about Jewish support eroding. It was Moline who was already a self-declared Obama booster who decided it was time to have the White House help a bunch of pulpit rabbis to write their Shabbat sermons. And it seems to have worked. “The rabbis in attendance … took the message home. ‘Our president is every bit as committed to Israel’s safety and security as any previous administration,’ Rabbi Aaron Rubinger said in a May 8 Shabbat morning sermon at Congregation Ohev Shalom, a Conservative synagogue in Orlando, Fla. ‘I do not believe the president is abandoning Israel or has any intention of abandoning Israel.'”

This is the state of at least a significant segment of American Jewry — desperate to shill for Obama, blind to the peril that Israel faces, and oblivious to the historical legacy that awaits them, as well as their precious president, if Iran goes nuclear — or if Israel is forced to do what the U.S. should, namely, use military force to defuse an existential threat to the Jewish state. Again we must ask:

What is it about liberals and the longing for what Neal Kozodoy once so brilliantly called “the ratifying kick in the teeth”? Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?

And the mainstream Jewish organizations are no better, failing to sound the alarm and incapable of taking on a president whose name remains affixed to the bumpers of so many of their members’ cars. For those who portray themselves as leaders of the Jewish community and friends of Israel but who, as one Israel hand e-mails, “cling to liberalism, secularism and pacifism,” there is now the stark reality that they do so at the expense of the Jewish state.

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Rabbis Spun by Rahm Emanuel

According to this report, the Obama team is worried that “they may be losing the Jews,” but it’s all a big misunderstanding. That was Rahm Emanuel’s pitch to a meeting with rabbis last week:

The Obama administration has “screwed up the messaging” about its support for Israel over the past 14 months, and it will take “more than one month to make up for 14 months,” White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said on Thursday to a group of rabbis called together for a meeting in the White House.

“During the elections there were doubts about President Obama’s support for Israel, and now they have resurfaced,” Emanuel said, according to one of those who participated in the meeting. “But concerning policy, we have done everything that we can that is in Israel’s security – and long-range interests. Watch what the administration does.”

Emanuel also came right out and said that the Obama team opposes unilateral sanctions. Dennis Ross, in his enabler role, assured the rabbis that just because the Obama administration is calling for a nuclear-free Middle East doesn’t mean anything has changed regarding our stance toward Israel’s nuclear capability. (No, it doesn’t make any sense, but that is what he supposedly told them.)

One hopes against hope that those assembled rebutted the nonsense that the Obama team’s problem is merely one of presentation. After all, demanding a unilateral settlement freeze, condemning the Jewish state, repudiating the Bush-Sharon agreements on settlements and Jerusalem, the leak campaign threatening to impose a peace plan, the anemic effort to deprive the mullahs of nuclear weapons, and the robust effort to prevent an Israeli strike to defend the Jewish state from an existential threat are all substantive moves — more than spin. And if the message is so defective, then Obama should go back to Cairo and revise and extend his speech — making clear he was wrong to suggest that Israel’s legitimacy rests on the Holocaust, wrong to omit the history of Palestinian rejectionism, wrong to equate Palestinians with enslaved African Americans, and wrong to ignore Muslim brutality toward girls and women.

The communication problem is actually American Jewry’s. Privately they bemoan the current administration, but they continue with smiles and nods of approval when they have an opportunity to confront the administration. And they refuse to condemn Obama’s policies. They so covet those private confabs and the status of being on speaking terms with administration figures — and are so smitten with the Democratic Party, which returns their loyalty with an assault on the Jewish state — that they find is so very hard to speak up forcefully when they are being spun by a Chicago pol.

Perhaps those in attendance will be more candid in the future. If not, it’s hard to see how they are serving their congregants, American Jewry, or Israel. Silence, in this case, is complicity.

According to this report, the Obama team is worried that “they may be losing the Jews,” but it’s all a big misunderstanding. That was Rahm Emanuel’s pitch to a meeting with rabbis last week:

The Obama administration has “screwed up the messaging” about its support for Israel over the past 14 months, and it will take “more than one month to make up for 14 months,” White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said on Thursday to a group of rabbis called together for a meeting in the White House.

“During the elections there were doubts about President Obama’s support for Israel, and now they have resurfaced,” Emanuel said, according to one of those who participated in the meeting. “But concerning policy, we have done everything that we can that is in Israel’s security – and long-range interests. Watch what the administration does.”

Emanuel also came right out and said that the Obama team opposes unilateral sanctions. Dennis Ross, in his enabler role, assured the rabbis that just because the Obama administration is calling for a nuclear-free Middle East doesn’t mean anything has changed regarding our stance toward Israel’s nuclear capability. (No, it doesn’t make any sense, but that is what he supposedly told them.)

One hopes against hope that those assembled rebutted the nonsense that the Obama team’s problem is merely one of presentation. After all, demanding a unilateral settlement freeze, condemning the Jewish state, repudiating the Bush-Sharon agreements on settlements and Jerusalem, the leak campaign threatening to impose a peace plan, the anemic effort to deprive the mullahs of nuclear weapons, and the robust effort to prevent an Israeli strike to defend the Jewish state from an existential threat are all substantive moves — more than spin. And if the message is so defective, then Obama should go back to Cairo and revise and extend his speech — making clear he was wrong to suggest that Israel’s legitimacy rests on the Holocaust, wrong to omit the history of Palestinian rejectionism, wrong to equate Palestinians with enslaved African Americans, and wrong to ignore Muslim brutality toward girls and women.

The communication problem is actually American Jewry’s. Privately they bemoan the current administration, but they continue with smiles and nods of approval when they have an opportunity to confront the administration. And they refuse to condemn Obama’s policies. They so covet those private confabs and the status of being on speaking terms with administration figures — and are so smitten with the Democratic Party, which returns their loyalty with an assault on the Jewish state — that they find is so very hard to speak up forcefully when they are being spun by a Chicago pol.

Perhaps those in attendance will be more candid in the future. If not, it’s hard to see how they are serving their congregants, American Jewry, or Israel. Silence, in this case, is complicity.

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The Nasty Presidential Comic

Pete and I recently commented on Obama’s unfortunately snippy tone and nasty approach to his political adversaries. The evidence continues to mount that this president is lacking in basic graciousness and possesses, even for a politician, an overabundance of arrogance. The Washington Post reports on his comedy routine at the Correspondents’ Association Dinner over the weekend:

Breaking with presidential punch line tradition for the second consecutive year, Obama dropped zinger after zinger on his opponents and allies alike at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Obama went all Don Rickles on a broad range of topics and individuals: Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, presidential advisers David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, the news media, Jay Leno, and Republicans Michael Steele, Scott Brown, John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Except for a mild joke pegged to his falling approval ratings, Obama mostly spared Obama during his 14-minute stand-up routine.

It did not go unnoticed by those who expect the president to be self-deprecating and ingratiating at these events:

Obama’s derisive tone surprises and dismays some of the people who’ve written jokes for presidents past.

“With these dinners you want the audience to like you more when you sit down than when you stood up,” says Landon Parvin, an author and speechwriter for politicians in both parties, and a gag writer for three Republican presidents (Reagan and Bushes I and II). “Something in [Obama’s] humor didn’t do that,” he said Sunday.

Parvin advises his political clients to practice a little partisan self-deprecation when they make lighthearted remarks: “If you’re a Democrat, you make fun of Democrats and go easy on the Republicans; if you’re a Republican, you do the opposite,” he says.

Presidents past have generally hewed to that tradition, even when they were under intense criticism or were deeply unpopular.

In isolation, one night of barbed humor doesn’t amount to much. But when seen in conjunction with his general lack of respect for adversaries and his nonstop attacks on everyone from Sarah Palin to Fox News to his predecessor, one comes away with a picture of a thin-skinned and rather nasty character. It’s not an attractive personality in a president, and he may regret having failed to extend a measure of kindness and magnanimity that we have come to expect from presidents.

Pete and I recently commented on Obama’s unfortunately snippy tone and nasty approach to his political adversaries. The evidence continues to mount that this president is lacking in basic graciousness and possesses, even for a politician, an overabundance of arrogance. The Washington Post reports on his comedy routine at the Correspondents’ Association Dinner over the weekend:

Breaking with presidential punch line tradition for the second consecutive year, Obama dropped zinger after zinger on his opponents and allies alike at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Obama went all Don Rickles on a broad range of topics and individuals: Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, presidential advisers David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, the news media, Jay Leno, and Republicans Michael Steele, Scott Brown, John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Except for a mild joke pegged to his falling approval ratings, Obama mostly spared Obama during his 14-minute stand-up routine.

It did not go unnoticed by those who expect the president to be self-deprecating and ingratiating at these events:

Obama’s derisive tone surprises and dismays some of the people who’ve written jokes for presidents past.

“With these dinners you want the audience to like you more when you sit down than when you stood up,” says Landon Parvin, an author and speechwriter for politicians in both parties, and a gag writer for three Republican presidents (Reagan and Bushes I and II). “Something in [Obama’s] humor didn’t do that,” he said Sunday.

Parvin advises his political clients to practice a little partisan self-deprecation when they make lighthearted remarks: “If you’re a Democrat, you make fun of Democrats and go easy on the Republicans; if you’re a Republican, you do the opposite,” he says.

Presidents past have generally hewed to that tradition, even when they were under intense criticism or were deeply unpopular.

In isolation, one night of barbed humor doesn’t amount to much. But when seen in conjunction with his general lack of respect for adversaries and his nonstop attacks on everyone from Sarah Palin to Fox News to his predecessor, one comes away with a picture of a thin-skinned and rather nasty character. It’s not an attractive personality in a president, and he may regret having failed to extend a measure of kindness and magnanimity that we have come to expect from presidents.

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Do Democrats Have an Escape Plan for Illinois?

As I’ve noted, Democrats are rightly panicked about the Illinois Senate race. They need to find a way to dump Alex Giannoulias, the embattled and failed banker for Tony Rezko and the Mob, or most likely watch Obama’s former Senate seat go to Rep. Mark Kirk. But now the Obami have a brainstorm:

One intriguing idea being considered: Force Mr. Giannoulias out of the race and replace him with. … Rahm Emanuel. Mr. Emanuel is still popular in Illinois and there was a big push to get him handpicked as the Obama successor back in late 2008. Democrats have used the shaft-and-shift strategy before, as in New Jersey in 2002 when they dumped a walking wounded Bob Torricelli as their Senate candidate a few weeks before Election Day.

Well, it’s not clear that they can shove Giannoulias out of the way. But let’s consider a race with Rahm Emanuel in a year in which anti-Obamaism seems to have taken hold. It would be purely a referendum on Obama, for no one is more identified with Obama’s agenda — ObamaCare, the spending, the Israel-bashing, the hyper-partisanship — than Emanuel. At the very least, we’d have a robust debate on foreign policy. Kirk, one of Israel’s most vocal supporters, wrote a letter to Obama with Democrat Rep. Chris Carney that included this criticism of Obama’s assault on Israel, which from every report has been encouraged by Emanuel:

As we write today, Iran’s uranium enrichment and ballistic missile programs are accelerating. A nuclear-armed Iran would destabilize the Middle East and pose a direct threat to both American and Israeli citizens. Meanwhile, Iran continues to sponsor global terrorism, undermine U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and transfer advanced weapons to its proxies in Syria and Lebanon.

While the recent controversy is regrettable, it should not overshadow the importance of the US-Israel alliance. A zoning dispute over 143 acres of Jewish land in Israel’s capital city should not eclipse the growing threat we face from Iran.

To promote Middle East peace and defend America and Israel’s national security, we urge your Administration to refrain from further public criticism of Israel and to focus on more pressing issues affecting this vital relationship, such as signing and enforcing the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act when it comes to your desk.

We certainly would have a test of Obama’s agenda — in a year in which Obama is upside down in approval polls on nearly every issue. And it might be a revealing look at just how willing American Jews are to register disapproval of Obama’s anti-Israel and anemic Iran policies.

An Emanuel run, therefore, would be a significant risk. If he lost, it would be far worse for Obama than simply losing the seat and blaming it on the defective Democratic nominee. It would be in effect a preview of the 2012 presidential race and signal Obama’s extreme vulnerability. It’s not clear that it’s worth risking that much of the president’s stature for a single Senate seat, even in his home state. After all, Democrats are going to lose a bunch of seats in November. What’s one more?

As I’ve noted, Democrats are rightly panicked about the Illinois Senate race. They need to find a way to dump Alex Giannoulias, the embattled and failed banker for Tony Rezko and the Mob, or most likely watch Obama’s former Senate seat go to Rep. Mark Kirk. But now the Obami have a brainstorm:

One intriguing idea being considered: Force Mr. Giannoulias out of the race and replace him with. … Rahm Emanuel. Mr. Emanuel is still popular in Illinois and there was a big push to get him handpicked as the Obama successor back in late 2008. Democrats have used the shaft-and-shift strategy before, as in New Jersey in 2002 when they dumped a walking wounded Bob Torricelli as their Senate candidate a few weeks before Election Day.

Well, it’s not clear that they can shove Giannoulias out of the way. But let’s consider a race with Rahm Emanuel in a year in which anti-Obamaism seems to have taken hold. It would be purely a referendum on Obama, for no one is more identified with Obama’s agenda — ObamaCare, the spending, the Israel-bashing, the hyper-partisanship — than Emanuel. At the very least, we’d have a robust debate on foreign policy. Kirk, one of Israel’s most vocal supporters, wrote a letter to Obama with Democrat Rep. Chris Carney that included this criticism of Obama’s assault on Israel, which from every report has been encouraged by Emanuel:

As we write today, Iran’s uranium enrichment and ballistic missile programs are accelerating. A nuclear-armed Iran would destabilize the Middle East and pose a direct threat to both American and Israeli citizens. Meanwhile, Iran continues to sponsor global terrorism, undermine U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and transfer advanced weapons to its proxies in Syria and Lebanon.

While the recent controversy is regrettable, it should not overshadow the importance of the US-Israel alliance. A zoning dispute over 143 acres of Jewish land in Israel’s capital city should not eclipse the growing threat we face from Iran.

To promote Middle East peace and defend America and Israel’s national security, we urge your Administration to refrain from further public criticism of Israel and to focus on more pressing issues affecting this vital relationship, such as signing and enforcing the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act when it comes to your desk.

We certainly would have a test of Obama’s agenda — in a year in which Obama is upside down in approval polls on nearly every issue. And it might be a revealing look at just how willing American Jews are to register disapproval of Obama’s anti-Israel and anemic Iran policies.

An Emanuel run, therefore, would be a significant risk. If he lost, it would be far worse for Obama than simply losing the seat and blaming it on the defective Democratic nominee. It would be in effect a preview of the 2012 presidential race and signal Obama’s extreme vulnerability. It’s not clear that it’s worth risking that much of the president’s stature for a single Senate seat, even in his home state. After all, Democrats are going to lose a bunch of seats in November. What’s one more?

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Mr. Obama Goes to Washington

Politico tells us:

While Washington talks about Obama’s new mojo, polls show voters outside the Beltway are sulking — soured on the president, his party and his program. The Gallup Poll has Obama’s approval rating at an ominous 49 percent, after hitting a record low of 47 percent last weekend. A new poll in Pennsylvania, a bellwether industrial state, shows his numbers sinking, as did recent polls in Ohio and Florida. So there are two Obamas: Rising in D.C., struggling in the U.S.

There are several noteworthy aspects to this. First, it’s silly — Washington is composed mostly of Democrats these days, so of course they marvel at Obama’s mojo and “success.” A sample of the fantasy land they inhabit: “Obama aides say that perceptions in the capital about Obama’s effectiveness and political standing have been changed not just by health care, but also job growth, foreign-policy successes and lower-than-expected costs for the bailout.” Job growth?? Lower-than expected cost for the bailout?? I think they’ve got something(s) confused. And the foreign-policy success, I suppose, refers not so much to debacles in our dealings with Iran and the Middle East more generally but to the unratifiable START treaty and relatively meaningless “collect the nuclear materials in four years” deal. This is what passes for Washington wisdom.

Well, then there is the irony that the Yes-We-Can-Change-Washington candidate is now a creature and pop star inside the Beltway and increasingly unpopular everywhere else. It is the triumph inside the Beltway of a president who “won” on health care over the reality in the country, where that “victory” is reviled and will likely lead to a drubbing for his party in November.

And finally, the answer to the president’s woes? More spin! Oh, yes. Democrats proclaim that:

… they fear that Obama moved on too quickly and warn urgently that the White House needs to expend more bandwidth promoting the win. After all, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel originally wanted the bill signed by November, so Democrats would have a full year to explain and promote the bill before midterms.

“They’ve got beat the hell out of this: He’s got to get out there and sell the damn thing,” said a top outside adviser to the White House. “Health care will not sell itself. The only person that can really change the narrative out in the country is the president of the United States.”

The answer to policy objections is always, with this crowd, more PR.

In all of this, one can only marvel at the deep cynicism of a candidate who spun New Age blather, disguised his ideological extremism, and came to Washington to discover he’s at odds with the country that less than two years ago was in the palm of his hand. It seems it never dawned on the Obami that once the ruse was revealed, the public would be annoyed, angry even. They just figured everyone would sort of go along. It must come as a shock to Obama to see the public so resistant to his charms and so disenchanted with the agenda he was smart enough to hide until he won the election.

Politico tells us:

While Washington talks about Obama’s new mojo, polls show voters outside the Beltway are sulking — soured on the president, his party and his program. The Gallup Poll has Obama’s approval rating at an ominous 49 percent, after hitting a record low of 47 percent last weekend. A new poll in Pennsylvania, a bellwether industrial state, shows his numbers sinking, as did recent polls in Ohio and Florida. So there are two Obamas: Rising in D.C., struggling in the U.S.

There are several noteworthy aspects to this. First, it’s silly — Washington is composed mostly of Democrats these days, so of course they marvel at Obama’s mojo and “success.” A sample of the fantasy land they inhabit: “Obama aides say that perceptions in the capital about Obama’s effectiveness and political standing have been changed not just by health care, but also job growth, foreign-policy successes and lower-than-expected costs for the bailout.” Job growth?? Lower-than expected cost for the bailout?? I think they’ve got something(s) confused. And the foreign-policy success, I suppose, refers not so much to debacles in our dealings with Iran and the Middle East more generally but to the unratifiable START treaty and relatively meaningless “collect the nuclear materials in four years” deal. This is what passes for Washington wisdom.

Well, then there is the irony that the Yes-We-Can-Change-Washington candidate is now a creature and pop star inside the Beltway and increasingly unpopular everywhere else. It is the triumph inside the Beltway of a president who “won” on health care over the reality in the country, where that “victory” is reviled and will likely lead to a drubbing for his party in November.

And finally, the answer to the president’s woes? More spin! Oh, yes. Democrats proclaim that:

… they fear that Obama moved on too quickly and warn urgently that the White House needs to expend more bandwidth promoting the win. After all, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel originally wanted the bill signed by November, so Democrats would have a full year to explain and promote the bill before midterms.

“They’ve got beat the hell out of this: He’s got to get out there and sell the damn thing,” said a top outside adviser to the White House. “Health care will not sell itself. The only person that can really change the narrative out in the country is the president of the United States.”

The answer to policy objections is always, with this crowd, more PR.

In all of this, one can only marvel at the deep cynicism of a candidate who spun New Age blather, disguised his ideological extremism, and came to Washington to discover he’s at odds with the country that less than two years ago was in the palm of his hand. It seems it never dawned on the Obami that once the ruse was revealed, the public would be annoyed, angry even. They just figured everyone would sort of go along. It must come as a shock to Obama to see the public so resistant to his charms and so disenchanted with the agenda he was smart enough to hide until he won the election.

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Graham’s Crumbling Deal

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors go after Lindsey Graham on his recent proposed “deal” (which is not close to done) to close Guantanamo and send KSM back to a military tribunal:

Mr. Graham says if the White House sends September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to a military tribunal instead of a New York courtroom, he’ll help rally Republicans to support closing the prison in Guantanamo. Why? The plan for KSM’s tour of the civilian justice system is already a political dead horse. The White House has been backing away from its plan to try terrorists in civilian courts. What’s left is Mr. Obama’s unfortunate campaign promise to “close Guantanamo.” So Senator Graham is working with chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to help them out of this bind.

But this isn’t merely unnecessary (since a civilian trial of KSM is fast losing support in Congress and among voters); it is unwise. After all, there are good reasons why we haven’t closed Guantanamo already, despite the president’s ill-considered announcement just days into his presidency. The editors go on to note:

Closing Guantanamo has always been something of a red herring. The prison is remote, secure and humane, not to mention a state of the art facility already paid in full. The preferred White House alternative of a prison in Illinois will add legal complications and subtract the nice weather. Al Qaeda will claim we’re torturing detainees wherever we hold them. International critics will carp at anything short of opening the jail doors.

So why did Graham throw this out there? Well, just as he voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, this is a man who plainly loves the media adulation that goes along with taking on his Republican party. That makes one a “maverick” and “courageous” among the chattering classes. Alas for Graham, there’s little support for his gambit. He’ll have to find something else with which to annoy conservatives.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors go after Lindsey Graham on his recent proposed “deal” (which is not close to done) to close Guantanamo and send KSM back to a military tribunal:

Mr. Graham says if the White House sends September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to a military tribunal instead of a New York courtroom, he’ll help rally Republicans to support closing the prison in Guantanamo. Why? The plan for KSM’s tour of the civilian justice system is already a political dead horse. The White House has been backing away from its plan to try terrorists in civilian courts. What’s left is Mr. Obama’s unfortunate campaign promise to “close Guantanamo.” So Senator Graham is working with chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to help them out of this bind.

But this isn’t merely unnecessary (since a civilian trial of KSM is fast losing support in Congress and among voters); it is unwise. After all, there are good reasons why we haven’t closed Guantanamo already, despite the president’s ill-considered announcement just days into his presidency. The editors go on to note:

Closing Guantanamo has always been something of a red herring. The prison is remote, secure and humane, not to mention a state of the art facility already paid in full. The preferred White House alternative of a prison in Illinois will add legal complications and subtract the nice weather. Al Qaeda will claim we’re torturing detainees wherever we hold them. International critics will carp at anything short of opening the jail doors.

So why did Graham throw this out there? Well, just as he voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, this is a man who plainly loves the media adulation that goes along with taking on his Republican party. That makes one a “maverick” and “courageous” among the chattering classes. Alas for Graham, there’s little support for his gambit. He’ll have to find something else with which to annoy conservatives.

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Reid Keeps on Working

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suffered a personal calamity yesterday when his wife Landra and daughter Lana were injured in a chain collision on a Virginia interstate. Although both mother and daughter are apparently out of danger, Landra Reid’s injuries included, according to Reid’s spokesman, a “broken nose, a broken back, a broken neck.” Anyone who has suffered the sudden and serious injury of a loved one knows this must be consuming all his thoughts, and will instinctively utter a prayer for her recovery.

Which is why I was struck by the following few lines in the New York Times‘s coverage of the accident:

Reid, D-Nev., went to the hospital after being notified of the accident and returned to Capitol Hill for a meeting with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on efforts to pass health care legislation. He went back to the hospital Thursday evening.

I really don’t mean to sound nitpicky. I understand that the American people have been waiting a long time for progress on health care. And that in the face of personal tragedy, there is something stirring about Reid’s commitment to the needs of the nation. I also understand that his wife’s injuries, though serious, are not life-threatening. Yet there is still something very upsetting about not giving the guy a day off to be with his wife and daughter, who may have just escaped a far worse tragedy. I don’t want to speculate whether he insisted on attending the meeting, or whether it was Emanuel and Pelosi who pushed it; even if he insisted, they should still have just canceled. Nor does it help to take the ultra-cynical view and say that, hey, they’re all politicians, and they will always put politics ahead of everything. Because even according to this approach, what does it say about what the voters are looking for in their leaders? Shouldn’t it be to the politicians’ advantage to appear as caring individuals who understand that there are just times when you drop everything and deal with the real things in life — especially if they’re asking for the nation’s trust in caring for the sick and injured across America?

But I’d rather not go down that route. I’d rather just chalk it all up to the inscrutability of human things, and wish the best for Reid’s family.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suffered a personal calamity yesterday when his wife Landra and daughter Lana were injured in a chain collision on a Virginia interstate. Although both mother and daughter are apparently out of danger, Landra Reid’s injuries included, according to Reid’s spokesman, a “broken nose, a broken back, a broken neck.” Anyone who has suffered the sudden and serious injury of a loved one knows this must be consuming all his thoughts, and will instinctively utter a prayer for her recovery.

Which is why I was struck by the following few lines in the New York Times‘s coverage of the accident:

Reid, D-Nev., went to the hospital after being notified of the accident and returned to Capitol Hill for a meeting with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on efforts to pass health care legislation. He went back to the hospital Thursday evening.

I really don’t mean to sound nitpicky. I understand that the American people have been waiting a long time for progress on health care. And that in the face of personal tragedy, there is something stirring about Reid’s commitment to the needs of the nation. I also understand that his wife’s injuries, though serious, are not life-threatening. Yet there is still something very upsetting about not giving the guy a day off to be with his wife and daughter, who may have just escaped a far worse tragedy. I don’t want to speculate whether he insisted on attending the meeting, or whether it was Emanuel and Pelosi who pushed it; even if he insisted, they should still have just canceled. Nor does it help to take the ultra-cynical view and say that, hey, they’re all politicians, and they will always put politics ahead of everything. Because even according to this approach, what does it say about what the voters are looking for in their leaders? Shouldn’t it be to the politicians’ advantage to appear as caring individuals who understand that there are just times when you drop everything and deal with the real things in life — especially if they’re asking for the nation’s trust in caring for the sick and injured across America?

But I’d rather not go down that route. I’d rather just chalk it all up to the inscrutability of human things, and wish the best for Reid’s family.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama could use an “intervention,” says Noemie Emery. “Denial is a river that runs through the White House, where the denizens are in the grip of two major delusions: One, that the country really wants really expensive big government, and two, that Obama is ‘sort of like God.’ Since early last spring, they’ve been waging a fight with the reality principle, convincing themselves (and fewer and fewer in the larger political universe) that in the very next speech, Obama will recapture that old campaign magic. If people don’t like what they’re doing, the way to regain and to hold their affection was to give them much more of the same.”

Obama could use a change of topic. ObamaCare is killing him: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

Nancy Pelosi could use some votes. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s task of securing 216 votes for passage is only getting more difficult. Several members who voted against the legislation when it was first before the House in Nov. told Hotline OnCall [Tuesday] they would vote against the measure again, trimming the number of Dems who might be persuaded to make up the difference.”

The Democrats could use some esprit de corps (or a marriage counselor): “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to stop assigning deadlines to Congress for finishing the health care reform bill. In a House-Senate leadership meeting on health care Tuesday, she essentially told Emanuel to ‘cool it,’ according to one Hill Democratic aide — an account confirmed by a second aide.”

We could all use less Glenn Beck and Eric Massa.

We could use more forthrightness about our feeble Iran policy. AIPAC steps up to the plate with a rare public letter expressing “outrage at the U.S. government’s continuing relationship with dozens of companies doing business with Iran. These ongoing financial dealings undermine longstanding American efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.” Great. Now where’s the letter on the Obama administration’s pathetic effort to wriggle out of its promise to impose crippling sanctions?

The Democrats could use a break from the bad news in Virginia (which Bob McDonnell swept in a landslide in November): “Fairfax County businessman Keith Fimian, who unsuccessfully ran against former County Board chairman Gerry Connolly for the congressional seat of retiring Republican congressman Tom Davis, has just released a poll giving him a five-point lead over Connolly, the president of the Democrats’ 2008 freshman class. … Pollsters found voters in a strong ‘very anti-incumbent’ mood, with two-thirds (65 percent) saying they believe Washington is on the wrong track. And they’re blaming Congress in general — and Connolly in particular — for the mess.”

Democrats could use more enthusiasm, says Jonathan Chait: “Democrats face an enormous problem here. The electorate that shows up in November could be far more Republican than the electorate as a whole. In these circumstances, it seems like the party’s number one imperative has to be shoring up the base and giving its voters a reason to go to the polls in November.” His solution: pass ObamaCare! Which, of course, will only fire up conservatives even more.

Charlie Crist could use an exit plan. “Former House Speaker Marco Rubio’s stunning early lead in Florida’s Republican U.S. Senate race was confirmed today by an Insider Advantage/Florida Times-Union poll that shows him leading Gov. Charlie Crist by 34 points among likely voters in August’s primary.”

Obama could use an “intervention,” says Noemie Emery. “Denial is a river that runs through the White House, where the denizens are in the grip of two major delusions: One, that the country really wants really expensive big government, and two, that Obama is ‘sort of like God.’ Since early last spring, they’ve been waging a fight with the reality principle, convincing themselves (and fewer and fewer in the larger political universe) that in the very next speech, Obama will recapture that old campaign magic. If people don’t like what they’re doing, the way to regain and to hold their affection was to give them much more of the same.”

Obama could use a change of topic. ObamaCare is killing him: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

Nancy Pelosi could use some votes. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s task of securing 216 votes for passage is only getting more difficult. Several members who voted against the legislation when it was first before the House in Nov. told Hotline OnCall [Tuesday] they would vote against the measure again, trimming the number of Dems who might be persuaded to make up the difference.”

The Democrats could use some esprit de corps (or a marriage counselor): “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to stop assigning deadlines to Congress for finishing the health care reform bill. In a House-Senate leadership meeting on health care Tuesday, she essentially told Emanuel to ‘cool it,’ according to one Hill Democratic aide — an account confirmed by a second aide.”

We could all use less Glenn Beck and Eric Massa.

We could use more forthrightness about our feeble Iran policy. AIPAC steps up to the plate with a rare public letter expressing “outrage at the U.S. government’s continuing relationship with dozens of companies doing business with Iran. These ongoing financial dealings undermine longstanding American efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.” Great. Now where’s the letter on the Obama administration’s pathetic effort to wriggle out of its promise to impose crippling sanctions?

The Democrats could use a break from the bad news in Virginia (which Bob McDonnell swept in a landslide in November): “Fairfax County businessman Keith Fimian, who unsuccessfully ran against former County Board chairman Gerry Connolly for the congressional seat of retiring Republican congressman Tom Davis, has just released a poll giving him a five-point lead over Connolly, the president of the Democrats’ 2008 freshman class. … Pollsters found voters in a strong ‘very anti-incumbent’ mood, with two-thirds (65 percent) saying they believe Washington is on the wrong track. And they’re blaming Congress in general — and Connolly in particular — for the mess.”

Democrats could use more enthusiasm, says Jonathan Chait: “Democrats face an enormous problem here. The electorate that shows up in November could be far more Republican than the electorate as a whole. In these circumstances, it seems like the party’s number one imperative has to be shoring up the base and giving its voters a reason to go to the polls in November.” His solution: pass ObamaCare! Which, of course, will only fire up conservatives even more.

Charlie Crist could use an exit plan. “Former House Speaker Marco Rubio’s stunning early lead in Florida’s Republican U.S. Senate race was confirmed today by an Insider Advantage/Florida Times-Union poll that shows him leading Gov. Charlie Crist by 34 points among likely voters in August’s primary.”

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Blaming Rahm and the Economy

David Broder dissects the work of his Washington Post colleagues who’ve been covering and perpetuating the Rahm Emanuel “I’m smarter than Obama” story, which, as Broder bluntly puts it, have “portrayed [Obama] as a weakling and a chronic screw-up who is wrecking his administration despite everything that his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, can do to make things right.” Broder recites the White House spin (whose? in the hall of mirrors, is this Rahm’s version of events?) that it’s not Rahm but Rahm’s friends who are fanning the flames, and that it’s the economy that’s sunk the president’s approval ratings.

All this is interesting, if not amusing, and certainly a refreshing change from the “everyone is getting along splendidly” spin we heard just a short time ago. But the fact remains that whatever advice Obama has gotten from whichever advisers, he’s made a series of blunders — adopting an unworkable and dangerous criminal-justice model for combating terrorism, doubling down on his grossly unpopular health-care schemes, affecting a hyper-partisan demeanor toward critics, pushing a far-Left agenda, failing to “pivot” back to jobs, and doing positively nothing to impair the mullahs’ pursuit of nuclear weapons. Emanuel’s willingness to speak out, or to have surrogates speak out on his behalf, is simply confirmation that saner heads realize that this presidency is sinking fast. Debunking who gave what advice and trying to discern who the snipers are may be interesting asides, but ultimately irrelevant.

However, if Broder is correct that the White House actually believes its troubles are attributable to a listing economy, this suggests that no soul-searching or self-reflection has gone on, that the administration has learned nothing from the string of high-profile election losses, and that it intends to drive the Democratic party to the … what is it? … ah, precipice to achieve its own ideological aims. Now one might think that a group so convinced that the economy is the source of its travails might spend more time trying to fix the economy or figure out which of its policy proposals might retard the recovery. But, no. For this crew, the poor economy is a political excuse (like George W. Bush), not a policy focus.

Elections, as Obama concedes, matter, and come November the voters will hold those in power accountable. They aren’t much interested if Rahm was “right” — they simply want the Obami and the Congress to stop doing things they intensely dislike.

David Broder dissects the work of his Washington Post colleagues who’ve been covering and perpetuating the Rahm Emanuel “I’m smarter than Obama” story, which, as Broder bluntly puts it, have “portrayed [Obama] as a weakling and a chronic screw-up who is wrecking his administration despite everything that his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, can do to make things right.” Broder recites the White House spin (whose? in the hall of mirrors, is this Rahm’s version of events?) that it’s not Rahm but Rahm’s friends who are fanning the flames, and that it’s the economy that’s sunk the president’s approval ratings.

All this is interesting, if not amusing, and certainly a refreshing change from the “everyone is getting along splendidly” spin we heard just a short time ago. But the fact remains that whatever advice Obama has gotten from whichever advisers, he’s made a series of blunders — adopting an unworkable and dangerous criminal-justice model for combating terrorism, doubling down on his grossly unpopular health-care schemes, affecting a hyper-partisan demeanor toward critics, pushing a far-Left agenda, failing to “pivot” back to jobs, and doing positively nothing to impair the mullahs’ pursuit of nuclear weapons. Emanuel’s willingness to speak out, or to have surrogates speak out on his behalf, is simply confirmation that saner heads realize that this presidency is sinking fast. Debunking who gave what advice and trying to discern who the snipers are may be interesting asides, but ultimately irrelevant.

However, if Broder is correct that the White House actually believes its troubles are attributable to a listing economy, this suggests that no soul-searching or self-reflection has gone on, that the administration has learned nothing from the string of high-profile election losses, and that it intends to drive the Democratic party to the … what is it? … ah, precipice to achieve its own ideological aims. Now one might think that a group so convinced that the economy is the source of its travails might spend more time trying to fix the economy or figure out which of its policy proposals might retard the recovery. But, no. For this crew, the poor economy is a political excuse (like George W. Bush), not a policy focus.

Elections, as Obama concedes, matter, and come November the voters will hold those in power accountable. They aren’t much interested if Rahm was “right” — they simply want the Obami and the Congress to stop doing things they intensely dislike.

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Madame Speaker, Meet Reality

Politico’s headline blares: “Nancy Pelosi’s Brutal Reality Check.” A big chunk of that reality is the absence in the House of votes necessary to pass ObamaCare:

Pelosi and other top House Democrats say publicly that they have the votes to push through a comprehensive package, but privately, they know they don’t. Pelosi must balance the diverging interests of her own members while simultaneously satisfying Senate Democrats and working with President Barack Obama and his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a former House colleague with whom she has an uneasy relationship.

Oops. And then there are the upcoming elections, the retirements, the corruption scandals, and her own unpopularity. But she assures us that the Democrats will keep their majority. Listen, what do you expect her to say? No use turning a rout into a stampede. But it does suggest that many of the pro-Obama spinners in the media are being taken for a ride. They seem to take seriously the notion that she’s got this all lined up and that reconciliation is the magic potion for passing ObamaCare.

It isn’t clear how much in touch with reality Pelosi is. Does she buy her own spin or is she trying to make the best out of a bad situation? Maybe she is simply trying to keep her finger in the dike, preventing the dam from bursting and the liberal base from going berserk and thereby further demoralizing her caucus. But if she has some sense of her own political peril and of the near-moribund state of ObamaCare, it would be a wonder why she is not, at least quietly, trying to come up with Plan B. She’s decried incrementalism, as Obama has. But that’s her only hope if, in fact, the votes for a grandiose health-care scheme just aren’t there.

Perhaps what is required here from Pelosi is not an introduction to reality but a collision — a vote that fails or a whip count that shows she is over 15 or 20 votes shy of a majority. If that moment comes, then perhaps we will see whether Pelosi has the skill and smarts to find a way to save her own speakership, the Democratic majority, and, in a meaningful way, Obama’s presidency. And then we’ll maybe give her some praise for a health-care plan that is incremental, affordable, and reasonable — everything the current plan is not.

Politico’s headline blares: “Nancy Pelosi’s Brutal Reality Check.” A big chunk of that reality is the absence in the House of votes necessary to pass ObamaCare:

Pelosi and other top House Democrats say publicly that they have the votes to push through a comprehensive package, but privately, they know they don’t. Pelosi must balance the diverging interests of her own members while simultaneously satisfying Senate Democrats and working with President Barack Obama and his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a former House colleague with whom she has an uneasy relationship.

Oops. And then there are the upcoming elections, the retirements, the corruption scandals, and her own unpopularity. But she assures us that the Democrats will keep their majority. Listen, what do you expect her to say? No use turning a rout into a stampede. But it does suggest that many of the pro-Obama spinners in the media are being taken for a ride. They seem to take seriously the notion that she’s got this all lined up and that reconciliation is the magic potion for passing ObamaCare.

It isn’t clear how much in touch with reality Pelosi is. Does she buy her own spin or is she trying to make the best out of a bad situation? Maybe she is simply trying to keep her finger in the dike, preventing the dam from bursting and the liberal base from going berserk and thereby further demoralizing her caucus. But if she has some sense of her own political peril and of the near-moribund state of ObamaCare, it would be a wonder why she is not, at least quietly, trying to come up with Plan B. She’s decried incrementalism, as Obama has. But that’s her only hope if, in fact, the votes for a grandiose health-care scheme just aren’t there.

Perhaps what is required here from Pelosi is not an introduction to reality but a collision — a vote that fails or a whip count that shows she is over 15 or 20 votes shy of a majority. If that moment comes, then perhaps we will see whether Pelosi has the skill and smarts to find a way to save her own speakership, the Democratic majority, and, in a meaningful way, Obama’s presidency. And then we’ll maybe give her some praise for a health-care plan that is incremental, affordable, and reasonable — everything the current plan is not.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Democrats  get fingered, again, as much less supportive of Israel than Republicans and Independents. Thankfully, however, overall support for Israel is up, “Which should be a comfort to supporters of the Jewish State, who have felt an icy breeze wafting from the White House over the past year.” Still it does reraise the question, given Jews’ overwhelming identification as Democrats: “Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?”

The Climategate participants get fingered, again, for playing fast and loose with the facts. “The scientist who has been put in charge of the Commerce Department’s new climate change office is coming under attack from both sides of the global warming debate over his handling of what they say is contradictory scientific data related to the subject. … [A] climatologist affiliated with the University of Colorado who has crossed horns with [newly appointed Thomas] Karl in the past, says his appointment was a mistake. He accused Karl of suppressing data he submitted for the [UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s] most recent report on climate change and having a very narrow view of its causes.”

Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett get fingered, again, as flacks for the Iranian regime. (“The Leveretts’ sensitivity to suggestions they are in touch with Revolutionary Guards representatives is especially curious given that that Flynt Leverett has in the past boasted of his contacts with the Guards.”) And Lee Smith smartly concludes that “Obama’s policy of engagement with Iran has gone nowhere, and true believers are dropping by the wayside. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, is calling for regime change, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is reviving a promise from her own presidential campaign to extend a nuclear umbrella to protect Washington’s allies in the Persian Gulf. … The United States must stop the Iranians by any means necessary, and it must do so now.”

Barack Obama gets fingered, again, as a hypocrite. In 2005, he said: “You know, the Founders designed this system, as frustrating it is, to make sure that there’s a broad consensus before the country moves forward.”

Sen. Arlen Specter  gets fingered, again, in a poll for defeat. Pat Toomey leads by 10 points in a potential general-election match-up.

Eric Holder gets fingered, again, by Andy McCarthy: “Their typical scandal pattern is: (a) make bold pronouncements about unprecedented transparency, (b) show a little leg, and then (c) stonewall, after which (d) White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel assures some friendly journalist that everything would have been different if only they’d have listened to him. The result is the trifecta: the administration ends up looking hypocritical, sinister and incompetent.”

Nancy Pelosi gets fingered, again, for lacking the votes for ObamaCare II: “There are 15-20 House Democrats who are withholding their support for President Barack Obama’s healthcare proposal, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said Wednesday. Stupak led a broad coalition of anti-abortion rights Democrats in November, demanding that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) include tough abortion restrictions in the lower chamber’s legislation lest she lose a chance of passing the bill. … In an interview on MSNBC Wednesday morning, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) accused [Eric] Cantor of ‘playing games’ but did not say whether House Democrats have the votes to pass the president’s fixes.”

Kirsten Gillibrand gets fingered, again, as a vulnerable Democrat. The newest potential challenger is Dan Senor, foreign-policy guru and co-author of  Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle.

Democrats  get fingered, again, as much less supportive of Israel than Republicans and Independents. Thankfully, however, overall support for Israel is up, “Which should be a comfort to supporters of the Jewish State, who have felt an icy breeze wafting from the White House over the past year.” Still it does reraise the question, given Jews’ overwhelming identification as Democrats: “Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?”

The Climategate participants get fingered, again, for playing fast and loose with the facts. “The scientist who has been put in charge of the Commerce Department’s new climate change office is coming under attack from both sides of the global warming debate over his handling of what they say is contradictory scientific data related to the subject. … [A] climatologist affiliated with the University of Colorado who has crossed horns with [newly appointed Thomas] Karl in the past, says his appointment was a mistake. He accused Karl of suppressing data he submitted for the [UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s] most recent report on climate change and having a very narrow view of its causes.”

Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett get fingered, again, as flacks for the Iranian regime. (“The Leveretts’ sensitivity to suggestions they are in touch with Revolutionary Guards representatives is especially curious given that that Flynt Leverett has in the past boasted of his contacts with the Guards.”) And Lee Smith smartly concludes that “Obama’s policy of engagement with Iran has gone nowhere, and true believers are dropping by the wayside. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, is calling for regime change, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is reviving a promise from her own presidential campaign to extend a nuclear umbrella to protect Washington’s allies in the Persian Gulf. … The United States must stop the Iranians by any means necessary, and it must do so now.”

Barack Obama gets fingered, again, as a hypocrite. In 2005, he said: “You know, the Founders designed this system, as frustrating it is, to make sure that there’s a broad consensus before the country moves forward.”

Sen. Arlen Specter  gets fingered, again, in a poll for defeat. Pat Toomey leads by 10 points in a potential general-election match-up.

Eric Holder gets fingered, again, by Andy McCarthy: “Their typical scandal pattern is: (a) make bold pronouncements about unprecedented transparency, (b) show a little leg, and then (c) stonewall, after which (d) White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel assures some friendly journalist that everything would have been different if only they’d have listened to him. The result is the trifecta: the administration ends up looking hypocritical, sinister and incompetent.”

Nancy Pelosi gets fingered, again, for lacking the votes for ObamaCare II: “There are 15-20 House Democrats who are withholding their support for President Barack Obama’s healthcare proposal, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said Wednesday. Stupak led a broad coalition of anti-abortion rights Democrats in November, demanding that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) include tough abortion restrictions in the lower chamber’s legislation lest she lose a chance of passing the bill. … In an interview on MSNBC Wednesday morning, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) accused [Eric] Cantor of ‘playing games’ but did not say whether House Democrats have the votes to pass the president’s fixes.”

Kirsten Gillibrand gets fingered, again, as a vulnerable Democrat. The newest potential challenger is Dan Senor, foreign-policy guru and co-author of  Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle.

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Leslie Gelb: We Need Better Advisers Because Obama Is Failing

Leslie Gelb has plainly had it with Obama. He observes: “The negative, even dismissive, talk about the Obama White House has reached a critical point. The president must change key personnel now. Unless he speedily sets up a new team, he will be reduced to a speechmaker.” We can quibble with the tense of that sentence, but he has a point.

Indeed, Gelb provides a list of particulars. On Afghanistan:

It’s even hard to follow his latest Afghan policy. He calls Afghanistan a “war of necessity” and orders more than 30,000 new troops there, coupled with an announcement that he’ll begin withdrawing some of them in a year plus, only to see some of his advisers say he will start withdrawals and some say he won’t.

On the Middle East, Gelb writes:

Obama doesn’t know what’s really going on. Regarding the Middle East, he recently said that “I think it is absolutely true that what we did this year didn’t produce the kind of breakthrough that we wanted, and if we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high.” He had to be totally out of it not to realize that the Palestinians and Israelis were nowhere close to sitting down with each other and dealing.

Well, yes. And George Mitchell, Hillary Clinton, and everyone else on Obama’s team has enabled this fantasy.

But the strength of the indictment only undermines Gelb’s proposed remedy, which is to move Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod to other positions, fire a bunch of other aides (including Robert Gibbs and James Jones), and get new advisers. I agree that Emanuel and Axelrod have been front and center in many of these debacles and have a hyper-partisan outlook that has proved unhelpful to Obama. I concur that Jones, to put it mildly, “has not emerged as a strategist—perhaps the key requirement of this key position.”

But do we really think a president whose thinking is as muddled as this one’s is going to be set straight by a new crew of aides? Indeed, Gelb concedes that Obama hasn’t proved he’s up for the job:

To lead America and the world, Obama has to grow far beyond his present propensity to treat problems as intellectual puzzles—to collect facts and hear the arguments. The great tasks of governing demand proven intuition in sensing what’s achievable, which buttons to push when, how to buy the time for power to take hold, how to make adjustments without flagrantly foolish rhetoric, how to avoid failures that only diminish power, and how to succeed in small as well as large ways.

Gelb’s argument boils down to the hope that better aides can substitute for a competent president. But we know that’s not how it works. There is one president who must decide between often conflicting advice. There is one president who can connect — or not — with Middle America and roll up his sleeves to make deals with opponents. And only the president can give up the pipe dream of engaging despots. (Then there’s this problem: would any smart people want a job in the Obama administration right now?)

In the end, if the American people chose unwisely in November 2008, there is only one remedy: vote for the opposition party to check the president’s worst instincts. And if that doesn’t work, replace the president, too. If Obama can’t get up to speed and dramatically shift course, I suspect that is exactly what will happen.

Leslie Gelb has plainly had it with Obama. He observes: “The negative, even dismissive, talk about the Obama White House has reached a critical point. The president must change key personnel now. Unless he speedily sets up a new team, he will be reduced to a speechmaker.” We can quibble with the tense of that sentence, but he has a point.

Indeed, Gelb provides a list of particulars. On Afghanistan:

It’s even hard to follow his latest Afghan policy. He calls Afghanistan a “war of necessity” and orders more than 30,000 new troops there, coupled with an announcement that he’ll begin withdrawing some of them in a year plus, only to see some of his advisers say he will start withdrawals and some say he won’t.

On the Middle East, Gelb writes:

Obama doesn’t know what’s really going on. Regarding the Middle East, he recently said that “I think it is absolutely true that what we did this year didn’t produce the kind of breakthrough that we wanted, and if we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high.” He had to be totally out of it not to realize that the Palestinians and Israelis were nowhere close to sitting down with each other and dealing.

Well, yes. And George Mitchell, Hillary Clinton, and everyone else on Obama’s team has enabled this fantasy.

But the strength of the indictment only undermines Gelb’s proposed remedy, which is to move Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod to other positions, fire a bunch of other aides (including Robert Gibbs and James Jones), and get new advisers. I agree that Emanuel and Axelrod have been front and center in many of these debacles and have a hyper-partisan outlook that has proved unhelpful to Obama. I concur that Jones, to put it mildly, “has not emerged as a strategist—perhaps the key requirement of this key position.”

But do we really think a president whose thinking is as muddled as this one’s is going to be set straight by a new crew of aides? Indeed, Gelb concedes that Obama hasn’t proved he’s up for the job:

To lead America and the world, Obama has to grow far beyond his present propensity to treat problems as intellectual puzzles—to collect facts and hear the arguments. The great tasks of governing demand proven intuition in sensing what’s achievable, which buttons to push when, how to buy the time for power to take hold, how to make adjustments without flagrantly foolish rhetoric, how to avoid failures that only diminish power, and how to succeed in small as well as large ways.

Gelb’s argument boils down to the hope that better aides can substitute for a competent president. But we know that’s not how it works. There is one president who must decide between often conflicting advice. There is one president who can connect — or not — with Middle America and roll up his sleeves to make deals with opponents. And only the president can give up the pipe dream of engaging despots. (Then there’s this problem: would any smart people want a job in the Obama administration right now?)

In the end, if the American people chose unwisely in November 2008, there is only one remedy: vote for the opposition party to check the president’s worst instincts. And if that doesn’t work, replace the president, too. If Obama can’t get up to speed and dramatically shift course, I suspect that is exactly what will happen.

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If the Czar Only Knew

Democrats are loath to say outright what a political disaster Obama has been for their party. So they have seized upon his right-hand man:

Democrats in Congress are holding White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel accountable for his part in the collapse of healthcare reform.The emerging consensus among critics in both chambers is that Emanuel’s lack of Senate experience slowed President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority.

The share of the blame comes as cracks are beginning to show in Emanuel’s once-impregnable political armor. Last week he had to apologize after a report surfaced that he called liberal groups “retarded” in a private meeting.

He had to apologize because some liberal in that meeting ratted him out, counting on the political-correctness industry to storm into action. (Little did those liberals know that their arch-villainess of the Right would help them by calling for Emanuel’s firing.) The Democrats’ criticisms are admittedly contradictory. Liberals think Emanuel sold them out on the public option and health care, while Senate insiders think he blew it by playing to the Left. (“‘Their plan was to keep all the Democrats together and work like hell to get Snowe and Collins. The Senate doesn’t work that way. You need a radius of 10 to 12 from the other side if you’re going to have a shot.'”)

That’s not to say that Emanuel doesn’t deserve criticism. He is the chief of staff in an administration sinking below the waterline. He reportedly mucked around in the Afghan war-strategy process, prolonging it and causing the president to look irresolute and weak. He has been front and center in the “bully Israel” approach to the Middle East, which ranks up there with the most lame-brained ideas of this administration. And he has set a tone of crass partisanship, arrogance, and plain mean-spiritedness that has not served the administration well.

But let’s face it: the president is thrilled with him. If David Brooks has it right, it’s a lovefest over at the White House. Everyone is on the same page, and nary a word of internal dissention is heard. (“Yet the atmosphere in the White House appears surprisingly tranquil. Emanuel is serving as a lighting rod for the president but remains crisply confident in his role as chief of staff.”) But that bit of Obama insidery might not be all that helpful in the long run. It undermines the theory — and the hope of Democrats — that the extreme policy, the tone deafness, and the ham-handedness are not Obama’s doing or his fault. You see, there’s little room for Obama to maneuver, shift the blame to errant aides, and maintain his deity-like status if all of this left-wing policy and the political faux pas festival stem from Obama’s policy vision and reflect his political instincts. Oops. Maybe not the most helpful column, after all.

Let’s get real. An administration reflects the strengths and weaknesses of the president. He sets the tone and controls policy. If Democrats and the country at large are unhappy with the results, there is only one person responsible. And it’s not Rahm Emanuel.

Democrats are loath to say outright what a political disaster Obama has been for their party. So they have seized upon his right-hand man:

Democrats in Congress are holding White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel accountable for his part in the collapse of healthcare reform.The emerging consensus among critics in both chambers is that Emanuel’s lack of Senate experience slowed President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority.

The share of the blame comes as cracks are beginning to show in Emanuel’s once-impregnable political armor. Last week he had to apologize after a report surfaced that he called liberal groups “retarded” in a private meeting.

He had to apologize because some liberal in that meeting ratted him out, counting on the political-correctness industry to storm into action. (Little did those liberals know that their arch-villainess of the Right would help them by calling for Emanuel’s firing.) The Democrats’ criticisms are admittedly contradictory. Liberals think Emanuel sold them out on the public option and health care, while Senate insiders think he blew it by playing to the Left. (“‘Their plan was to keep all the Democrats together and work like hell to get Snowe and Collins. The Senate doesn’t work that way. You need a radius of 10 to 12 from the other side if you’re going to have a shot.'”)

That’s not to say that Emanuel doesn’t deserve criticism. He is the chief of staff in an administration sinking below the waterline. He reportedly mucked around in the Afghan war-strategy process, prolonging it and causing the president to look irresolute and weak. He has been front and center in the “bully Israel” approach to the Middle East, which ranks up there with the most lame-brained ideas of this administration. And he has set a tone of crass partisanship, arrogance, and plain mean-spiritedness that has not served the administration well.

But let’s face it: the president is thrilled with him. If David Brooks has it right, it’s a lovefest over at the White House. Everyone is on the same page, and nary a word of internal dissention is heard. (“Yet the atmosphere in the White House appears surprisingly tranquil. Emanuel is serving as a lighting rod for the president but remains crisply confident in his role as chief of staff.”) But that bit of Obama insidery might not be all that helpful in the long run. It undermines the theory — and the hope of Democrats — that the extreme policy, the tone deafness, and the ham-handedness are not Obama’s doing or his fault. You see, there’s little room for Obama to maneuver, shift the blame to errant aides, and maintain his deity-like status if all of this left-wing policy and the political faux pas festival stem from Obama’s policy vision and reflect his political instincts. Oops. Maybe not the most helpful column, after all.

Let’s get real. An administration reflects the strengths and weaknesses of the president. He sets the tone and controls policy. If Democrats and the country at large are unhappy with the results, there is only one person responsible. And it’s not Rahm Emanuel.

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Holder Under the Bus?

Andy McCarthy and I have both been looking at Attorney General Eric Holder’s latest effort to defend in a letter to Mitch McConnell the administration’s handling of the Christmas Day bomber. McCarthy sums it up:

The fundamental problem with the attorney general’s line of argument is that it unfolds as though there were no war and no president. Abdulmutallab, Holder believes, is just like any other person arrested in the United States: When an arrest happens, government officials automatically employ “long-established and publicly known policies and practices.” It does not matter who sent the person or what he was arrested trying to do. Miranda warnings are given, lawyers are interposed, charges are filed, and trials are conducted. Even if the nation is at war, we don’t inquire into whether the arrested person is an operative dispatched here by hostile forces to commit mass murder.

Aside from the sloppy legal work by Holder (including citing cases that have been since overturned by the Supreme Court), it is curious to see that the Obami are now retreating to the defense that “Bush did the same thing” (ignoring the instances in which Bush designated terrorists as enemy combatants). None of this seems to be working to shore up support for the criminal-justice model, which the Obami have insisted on employing, in part because the legal arguments are weak (e.g., disregarding the military-commission system, now in place to handle these cases) and in part because neither the public nor members of Obama’s own party think it makes sense to try KSM in a civilian court, Mirandize a terrorist, or ship Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. Joining the chorus of other mainstream critics of the Obama approach, Stuart Taylor calls Holder’s decisions to Mirandize the Christmas Day bomber and to try KSM in a civilian court “two glaring mistakes” that require a serious course correction by Obama in his anti-terrorism policies.

In a piece in the New Yorker, which aptly describes the gathering storm of opposition, Holder doubles-down (“What we did is totally consistent with what has happened in every similar case”) and lashes out at former Vice President Dick Cheney (“On some level, and I’m not sure why, he lacks confidence in the American system of justice”). But Holder seems to be on thin ice and the White House might now view him as a liability. The New Yorker quotes a source close to the White House:

“The White House doesn’t trust his judgment, and doesn’t think he’s mindful enough of all the things he should be,” such as protecting the President from political fallout. “They think he wants to protect his own image, and to make himself untouchable politically, the way Reno did, by doing the righteous thing.”

Even more ominous for Holder: Rahm Emanuel is making it clear to all those concerned that he disagreed with a string of highly controversial and politically disastrous decisions by Holder. We learn: “Emanuel adamantly opposed a number of Holder’s decisions, including one that widened the scope of a special counsel who had begun investigating the C.I.A.’s interrogation program. Bush had appointed the special counsel, John Durham, to assess whether the C.I.A. had obstructed justice when it destroyed videotapes documenting waterboarding sessions.” And then there is the KSM trial:

At the White House, Emanuel, who is not a lawyer, opposed Holder’s position on the 9/11 cases. He argued that the Administration needed the support of key Republicans to help close Guantánamo, and that a fight over Khalid Sheikh Mohammed could alienate them. “There was a lot of drama,” the informed source said. . . .  “Rahm felt very, very strongly that it was a mistake to prosecute the 9/11 people in the federal courts, and that it was picking an unnecessary fight with the military-commission people,” the informed source said. “Rahm had a good relationship with [Sen. Lindsay] Graham, and believed Graham when he said that if you don’t prosecute these people in military commissions I won’t support the closing of Guantánamo. . . . Rahm said, ‘If we don’t have Graham, we can’t close Guantánamo, and it’s on Eric!’ ”

Interesting that Emanuel and his spinners are now distancing the White House from their attorney general. One wonders where Obama stands in this drama. Isn’t he, after all, the commander in chief? Either the president was content to go along with Holder’s decisions until they went south or he subcontracted, with no oversight, some of the most critical decisions of his presidency to a lawyer who is prone to making the kind of mistakes a “first-year lawyer would get fired for.

Either way, Obama now must suffer the results of Holder’s ill-advised decisions. There will be much speculation, given Emanuel’s comments, as to whether the White House is getting ready to throw Holder under that proverbial bus. Now, as the Democrats join the Republicans to block the KSM trial and to deny funds for moving detainees to Illinois, it would be as good a time as any.

Andy McCarthy and I have both been looking at Attorney General Eric Holder’s latest effort to defend in a letter to Mitch McConnell the administration’s handling of the Christmas Day bomber. McCarthy sums it up:

The fundamental problem with the attorney general’s line of argument is that it unfolds as though there were no war and no president. Abdulmutallab, Holder believes, is just like any other person arrested in the United States: When an arrest happens, government officials automatically employ “long-established and publicly known policies and practices.” It does not matter who sent the person or what he was arrested trying to do. Miranda warnings are given, lawyers are interposed, charges are filed, and trials are conducted. Even if the nation is at war, we don’t inquire into whether the arrested person is an operative dispatched here by hostile forces to commit mass murder.

Aside from the sloppy legal work by Holder (including citing cases that have been since overturned by the Supreme Court), it is curious to see that the Obami are now retreating to the defense that “Bush did the same thing” (ignoring the instances in which Bush designated terrorists as enemy combatants). None of this seems to be working to shore up support for the criminal-justice model, which the Obami have insisted on employing, in part because the legal arguments are weak (e.g., disregarding the military-commission system, now in place to handle these cases) and in part because neither the public nor members of Obama’s own party think it makes sense to try KSM in a civilian court, Mirandize a terrorist, or ship Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. Joining the chorus of other mainstream critics of the Obama approach, Stuart Taylor calls Holder’s decisions to Mirandize the Christmas Day bomber and to try KSM in a civilian court “two glaring mistakes” that require a serious course correction by Obama in his anti-terrorism policies.

In a piece in the New Yorker, which aptly describes the gathering storm of opposition, Holder doubles-down (“What we did is totally consistent with what has happened in every similar case”) and lashes out at former Vice President Dick Cheney (“On some level, and I’m not sure why, he lacks confidence in the American system of justice”). But Holder seems to be on thin ice and the White House might now view him as a liability. The New Yorker quotes a source close to the White House:

“The White House doesn’t trust his judgment, and doesn’t think he’s mindful enough of all the things he should be,” such as protecting the President from political fallout. “They think he wants to protect his own image, and to make himself untouchable politically, the way Reno did, by doing the righteous thing.”

Even more ominous for Holder: Rahm Emanuel is making it clear to all those concerned that he disagreed with a string of highly controversial and politically disastrous decisions by Holder. We learn: “Emanuel adamantly opposed a number of Holder’s decisions, including one that widened the scope of a special counsel who had begun investigating the C.I.A.’s interrogation program. Bush had appointed the special counsel, John Durham, to assess whether the C.I.A. had obstructed justice when it destroyed videotapes documenting waterboarding sessions.” And then there is the KSM trial:

At the White House, Emanuel, who is not a lawyer, opposed Holder’s position on the 9/11 cases. He argued that the Administration needed the support of key Republicans to help close Guantánamo, and that a fight over Khalid Sheikh Mohammed could alienate them. “There was a lot of drama,” the informed source said. . . .  “Rahm felt very, very strongly that it was a mistake to prosecute the 9/11 people in the federal courts, and that it was picking an unnecessary fight with the military-commission people,” the informed source said. “Rahm had a good relationship with [Sen. Lindsay] Graham, and believed Graham when he said that if you don’t prosecute these people in military commissions I won’t support the closing of Guantánamo. . . . Rahm said, ‘If we don’t have Graham, we can’t close Guantánamo, and it’s on Eric!’ ”

Interesting that Emanuel and his spinners are now distancing the White House from their attorney general. One wonders where Obama stands in this drama. Isn’t he, after all, the commander in chief? Either the president was content to go along with Holder’s decisions until they went south or he subcontracted, with no oversight, some of the most critical decisions of his presidency to a lawyer who is prone to making the kind of mistakes a “first-year lawyer would get fired for.

Either way, Obama now must suffer the results of Holder’s ill-advised decisions. There will be much speculation, given Emanuel’s comments, as to whether the White House is getting ready to throw Holder under that proverbial bus. Now, as the Democrats join the Republicans to block the KSM trial and to deny funds for moving detainees to Illinois, it would be as good a time as any.

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ObamaCare Supporters Sink in the Polls

There is more unspinnable bad news for Obama, as Nate Silver would say:

A new Quinnipiac national survey shows the public evenly split on President Obama’s job approval rating. The 45% job approval is his lowest to date in the Quinnipiac poll, and his 45% disapproval rating is his highest.Overall, Obama’s job approval is now 47.6% in the RCP Average and his disapproval is at 45.8%. The public is equally split at 45/45 on the question of whether President Obama’s first year in office was “mainly” a success or a failure. Among the crucial group of registered Independents, 40% view Obama’s first year as a success while 47% view it as a failure.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that at least part of his problem has to do with the health-care bill he is pushing. In the same survey voters disapprove of his handling of health care by a 35-to-58 percent margin.

And speaking of bad news, more of those for Harry Reid: “Support among Nevada voters for embattled Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s reelection has fallen even further following disclosure in a new book of remarks he made about Barack Obama during Election 2008.A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in Nevada finds Reid earning just 36% of the vote against his two top Republican challengers.” And again, Reid is not only the most visible tone-deaf politician, but also among the most visible allies of Obama’s on health care:

“Reid’s difficulties stem directly from the fact that he is the Majority Leader of the United States Senate,” according to Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports. “His responsibilities as leader of the Senate Democrats have placed him in a very visible position promoting an agenda that is viewed with some skepticism by Nevada voters.”

With only 39 percent of Nevada voters supporting ObamaCare (and 80-89 percent of those favoring one of Reid’s GOP opponents), it isn’t hard to see why Reid’s seat is now imperiled.

One would think that nervous House and Senate Democrats could figure this out. There is an uncanny correlation — maybe even a relationship of cause and effect! — between a candidate’s support for ObamaCare and his or her collapse in the polls. Really, why risk it? Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Rahm Emanuel will get very, very mad if ObamaCare stalls out, but it might be the only thing that could save dozens of House Democrats and a handful of Red State senators.

There is more unspinnable bad news for Obama, as Nate Silver would say:

A new Quinnipiac national survey shows the public evenly split on President Obama’s job approval rating. The 45% job approval is his lowest to date in the Quinnipiac poll, and his 45% disapproval rating is his highest.Overall, Obama’s job approval is now 47.6% in the RCP Average and his disapproval is at 45.8%. The public is equally split at 45/45 on the question of whether President Obama’s first year in office was “mainly” a success or a failure. Among the crucial group of registered Independents, 40% view Obama’s first year as a success while 47% view it as a failure.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that at least part of his problem has to do with the health-care bill he is pushing. In the same survey voters disapprove of his handling of health care by a 35-to-58 percent margin.

And speaking of bad news, more of those for Harry Reid: “Support among Nevada voters for embattled Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s reelection has fallen even further following disclosure in a new book of remarks he made about Barack Obama during Election 2008.A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in Nevada finds Reid earning just 36% of the vote against his two top Republican challengers.” And again, Reid is not only the most visible tone-deaf politician, but also among the most visible allies of Obama’s on health care:

“Reid’s difficulties stem directly from the fact that he is the Majority Leader of the United States Senate,” according to Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports. “His responsibilities as leader of the Senate Democrats have placed him in a very visible position promoting an agenda that is viewed with some skepticism by Nevada voters.”

With only 39 percent of Nevada voters supporting ObamaCare (and 80-89 percent of those favoring one of Reid’s GOP opponents), it isn’t hard to see why Reid’s seat is now imperiled.

One would think that nervous House and Senate Democrats could figure this out. There is an uncanny correlation — maybe even a relationship of cause and effect! — between a candidate’s support for ObamaCare and his or her collapse in the polls. Really, why risk it? Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Rahm Emanuel will get very, very mad if ObamaCare stalls out, but it might be the only thing that could save dozens of House Democrats and a handful of Red State senators.

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Obama, the Overmatched President

In Howard Fineman’s column in Newsweek we read this:

President Barack Obama begins and ends each workday at the White House by going over a to-do list with his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. The two were reviewing things recently when Emanuel reminded him of the sheer size of the administration’s workload, which includes fending off the Great Recession and dealing with terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now, evidently, Yemen. “You know, Mr. President,” Emanuel said, “Franklin Roosevelt had eight years to deal with the economy before he had to lead a war. You have to do it all at once.”

Perhaps Barack “No Drama” Obama has been replaced by Barack “Melodrama” Obama. It would be beneficial to us all if the president and his staff eased up just a bit on the whining, blame-shifting, and feeling sorry for themselves (not to mention the comparisons to FDR). They should become, to borrow an old-fashioned word, more manly.

Memo to the President: You face stiff challenges, as do all presidents. But for the record, a recession is not a depression and the war in Afghanistan is not comparable to World War II. The most difficult actions that had to be taken on the economic front were ones done by your predecessor, before you were sworn in – and a good deal of the responsibility for what went wrong rests with the party you represent (see blocking reforms of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae). The Iraq war you inherited is going pretty well (no thanks to the policies you advocated when you were in the Senate); our presence there is winding down. And al-Qaeda, while still a lethal threat, has been significantly degraded and weakened thanks to the policies of the last eight years. Here is the truth you do not want to hear but need to be told: You took a difficult situation you inherited and, in several respects, made things worse rather than better.

If the burdens of the office are too much for Mr. Obama, he should never have sought it in the first place — and he might consider not seeking it next time. For now, though, the office is his. We don’t need to hear how overworked and overwhelmed and overmatched he is. Unfortunately we see evidence of that almost every day.

In Howard Fineman’s column in Newsweek we read this:

President Barack Obama begins and ends each workday at the White House by going over a to-do list with his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. The two were reviewing things recently when Emanuel reminded him of the sheer size of the administration’s workload, which includes fending off the Great Recession and dealing with terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now, evidently, Yemen. “You know, Mr. President,” Emanuel said, “Franklin Roosevelt had eight years to deal with the economy before he had to lead a war. You have to do it all at once.”

Perhaps Barack “No Drama” Obama has been replaced by Barack “Melodrama” Obama. It would be beneficial to us all if the president and his staff eased up just a bit on the whining, blame-shifting, and feeling sorry for themselves (not to mention the comparisons to FDR). They should become, to borrow an old-fashioned word, more manly.

Memo to the President: You face stiff challenges, as do all presidents. But for the record, a recession is not a depression and the war in Afghanistan is not comparable to World War II. The most difficult actions that had to be taken on the economic front were ones done by your predecessor, before you were sworn in – and a good deal of the responsibility for what went wrong rests with the party you represent (see blocking reforms of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae). The Iraq war you inherited is going pretty well (no thanks to the policies you advocated when you were in the Senate); our presence there is winding down. And al-Qaeda, while still a lethal threat, has been significantly degraded and weakened thanks to the policies of the last eight years. Here is the truth you do not want to hear but need to be told: You took a difficult situation you inherited and, in several respects, made things worse rather than better.

If the burdens of the office are too much for Mr. Obama, he should never have sought it in the first place — and he might consider not seeking it next time. For now, though, the office is his. We don’t need to hear how overworked and overwhelmed and overmatched he is. Unfortunately we see evidence of that almost every day.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

ReidCare doesn’t have 60 votes: “Two key senators criticized the most recent healthcare compromise Sunday, saying the policies replacing the public option are still unacceptable. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) both said a Medicare ‘buy-in’ option for those aged 55-64 was a deal breaker.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill signals she’s a “no” vote if ReidCare is going to increase costs or the deficit.

A smart take on and helpful survey of the Obami’s human-rights record from Joshua Kurlantzick: “The irony of Obama’s Nobel Prize is not that he accepted it while waging two wars. After all, as Obama said in Oslo: “One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek.” The stranger thing is that, from China to Sudan, from Burma to Iran, a president lauded for his commitment to peace has dialed down a U.S. commitment to human rights, one that persisted through both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back at least to Jimmy Carter. And so far, Obama has little to show for it.

A reminder of the Obama team’s awkward start last December — which was ignored by an utterly smitten press corps: “Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers want the FBI to give up details of interviews conducted last year of President Obama, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and others as part of the investigation into the former governor.”

Oh, that Nancy Pelosi: “Rasmussen Reports recently asked voters their opinion of ‘Nancy Pelosi’ and the responses were mixed. Forty-six percent (46%) offered a favorable opinion and 50% an unfavorable view. Just half the nation’s voters voiced a strong opinion about Pelosi—14% Very Favorable and 36% Very Unfavorable. However, in a separate survey conducted the same night, Rasmussen Reports asked voters their opinion of ‘House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’ … just 38% voiced a positive opinion while 58% had a negative view.”

Byron York reminds us that “‘Conservatives and Republicans report fewer experiences than liberals or Democrats communicating with the dead, seeing ghosts and consulting fortunetellers or psychics,’ the Pew study says.” Or belief in the hysterical global-warming hype. Maybe they favor science or traditional religion, or both.

Sunday was another new low for Obama: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. Today is the second straight day that Obama’s Approval Index rating has fallen to a new low.” He’s apparently bleeding support from his base: “Just 41% of Democrats Strongly Approve while 69% of Republicans Strongly Disapprove.”

More media outlets pick up on the New Black Panther Party scandal. From the Pittsburg Tribune-Review: “Every American who treasures the right to vote should thank the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — and scorn the Democrat-controlled Congress and an Obama Justice Department unworthy of its own name. The commission has subpoenaed records related to Justice dismissing, despite compelling video evidence, a Philadelphia voter-intimidation case against three New Black Panther Party members. In doing so, it admirably is pursuing the proper course — which seemingly is the only course likely to get to the bottom of that outrageous decision.”

And the Washington Times is on the case as well: “The dispute between the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Justice Department is starting to look like the legal equivalent of World War II’s Anzio campaign, which represented a major escalation late in the war. The battleground is the controversy about the department’s decision to drop voter-intimidation cases against members of the New Black Panther Party. The commission is mounting a massive legal assault; Justice is refusing to be budged; and the casualties could be high.”

ReidCare doesn’t have 60 votes: “Two key senators criticized the most recent healthcare compromise Sunday, saying the policies replacing the public option are still unacceptable. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) both said a Medicare ‘buy-in’ option for those aged 55-64 was a deal breaker.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill signals she’s a “no” vote if ReidCare is going to increase costs or the deficit.

A smart take on and helpful survey of the Obami’s human-rights record from Joshua Kurlantzick: “The irony of Obama’s Nobel Prize is not that he accepted it while waging two wars. After all, as Obama said in Oslo: “One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek.” The stranger thing is that, from China to Sudan, from Burma to Iran, a president lauded for his commitment to peace has dialed down a U.S. commitment to human rights, one that persisted through both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back at least to Jimmy Carter. And so far, Obama has little to show for it.

A reminder of the Obama team’s awkward start last December — which was ignored by an utterly smitten press corps: “Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers want the FBI to give up details of interviews conducted last year of President Obama, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and others as part of the investigation into the former governor.”

Oh, that Nancy Pelosi: “Rasmussen Reports recently asked voters their opinion of ‘Nancy Pelosi’ and the responses were mixed. Forty-six percent (46%) offered a favorable opinion and 50% an unfavorable view. Just half the nation’s voters voiced a strong opinion about Pelosi—14% Very Favorable and 36% Very Unfavorable. However, in a separate survey conducted the same night, Rasmussen Reports asked voters their opinion of ‘House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’ … just 38% voiced a positive opinion while 58% had a negative view.”

Byron York reminds us that “‘Conservatives and Republicans report fewer experiences than liberals or Democrats communicating with the dead, seeing ghosts and consulting fortunetellers or psychics,’ the Pew study says.” Or belief in the hysterical global-warming hype. Maybe they favor science or traditional religion, or both.

Sunday was another new low for Obama: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. Today is the second straight day that Obama’s Approval Index rating has fallen to a new low.” He’s apparently bleeding support from his base: “Just 41% of Democrats Strongly Approve while 69% of Republicans Strongly Disapprove.”

More media outlets pick up on the New Black Panther Party scandal. From the Pittsburg Tribune-Review: “Every American who treasures the right to vote should thank the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — and scorn the Democrat-controlled Congress and an Obama Justice Department unworthy of its own name. The commission has subpoenaed records related to Justice dismissing, despite compelling video evidence, a Philadelphia voter-intimidation case against three New Black Panther Party members. In doing so, it admirably is pursuing the proper course — which seemingly is the only course likely to get to the bottom of that outrageous decision.”

And the Washington Times is on the case as well: “The dispute between the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Justice Department is starting to look like the legal equivalent of World War II’s Anzio campaign, which represented a major escalation late in the war. The battleground is the controversy about the department’s decision to drop voter-intimidation cases against members of the New Black Panther Party. The commission is mounting a massive legal assault; Justice is refusing to be budged; and the casualties could be high.”

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China Debunks Obama’s Spin on Iran Diplomacy

Last week the decision of both Russia and China to endorse a condemnation of Iran’s nuclear program by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency was touted by the New York Times and others as a victory for the Obama administration’s diplomacy. The Times quoted White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel boasting that China’s support of Iran was proof that Obama’s trip to Beijing earlier this month wasn’t the disaster that virtually everyone thought it was. “This is the product of engagement,” Mr. Emanuel said, adding that it was “a direct result” of the trip.

But it appears as though Emanuel’s bloviating was yet another instance of the administration’s believing what it wanted to believe and ignoring the realities of the foreign-policy muddle that it has created. Far from demonstrating that China is ready to join America in a regime of “crippling sanctions” in 2010 against Iran, as Obama hoped, Beijing is doing what it has done for years on this issue: saying just enough to maintain its standing as an opponent of nuclear proliferation but remaining a steadfast opponent of any concrete action to stop Tehran.

That’s the only possible conclusion to be drawn from the reaction of China’s Foreign Ministry to Iran’s latest provocation: its statement over the past weekend, according to which Iran plans to build 10 more uranium-enrichment facilities. While Europe and the United States deplored Iran’s raising of the stakes in this standoff and the Islamist regime’s lack of interest in stepping away from the nuclear ledge, the Chinese are back to their old tricks of opposing any measures that might actually compel Tehran to stand down. The Associated Press reports that the Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday that sanctions “are not the goal” of new UN pressure on Iran. “We should properly resolve this issue through dialogue,” he said. “All parties should step up diplomatic efforts.”

In other words, the United States is no closer to achieving Chinese support for sanctions today than a month ago. Obama’s engagement policy and his attempts to appease the Russians and the Chinese in an effort to gain support to stop Iran have been colossal failures. Obama has nothing to show for betraying the Czech Republic and Poland on missile defense to please Russia or for refusing to meet with the Dalai Lama to mollify the Chinese. His amateurish foreign policy, exemplified by his justly criticized trip to China, can only have convinced the Iranians that they have nothing to fear from the West as they get closer to reaching nuclear capability.

Last week the decision of both Russia and China to endorse a condemnation of Iran’s nuclear program by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency was touted by the New York Times and others as a victory for the Obama administration’s diplomacy. The Times quoted White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel boasting that China’s support of Iran was proof that Obama’s trip to Beijing earlier this month wasn’t the disaster that virtually everyone thought it was. “This is the product of engagement,” Mr. Emanuel said, adding that it was “a direct result” of the trip.

But it appears as though Emanuel’s bloviating was yet another instance of the administration’s believing what it wanted to believe and ignoring the realities of the foreign-policy muddle that it has created. Far from demonstrating that China is ready to join America in a regime of “crippling sanctions” in 2010 against Iran, as Obama hoped, Beijing is doing what it has done for years on this issue: saying just enough to maintain its standing as an opponent of nuclear proliferation but remaining a steadfast opponent of any concrete action to stop Tehran.

That’s the only possible conclusion to be drawn from the reaction of China’s Foreign Ministry to Iran’s latest provocation: its statement over the past weekend, according to which Iran plans to build 10 more uranium-enrichment facilities. While Europe and the United States deplored Iran’s raising of the stakes in this standoff and the Islamist regime’s lack of interest in stepping away from the nuclear ledge, the Chinese are back to their old tricks of opposing any measures that might actually compel Tehran to stand down. The Associated Press reports that the Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday that sanctions “are not the goal” of new UN pressure on Iran. “We should properly resolve this issue through dialogue,” he said. “All parties should step up diplomatic efforts.”

In other words, the United States is no closer to achieving Chinese support for sanctions today than a month ago. Obama’s engagement policy and his attempts to appease the Russians and the Chinese in an effort to gain support to stop Iran have been colossal failures. Obama has nothing to show for betraying the Czech Republic and Poland on missile defense to please Russia or for refusing to meet with the Dalai Lama to mollify the Chinese. His amateurish foreign policy, exemplified by his justly criticized trip to China, can only have convinced the Iranians that they have nothing to fear from the West as they get closer to reaching nuclear capability.

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Making the Wish List

Tim Cavanaugh (h/t Glenn Reynolds) writes:

I don’t understand the Washington cant that says [Larry] Summers, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and other manifest failures can’t be fired. Ronald Reagan, father of the debtorship society, fired six department heads in his first term, and made a point of first humiliating and then firing his deficit-hawk OMB director David Stockman. George W. Bush fired Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill on his way to winning re-election.

This is not only brilliant advice for the economic team, but it is worth considering on a broader basis. Multiple firings would serve many aims. First, they keep the media off of their new favorite storyline — namely, “Is this really the guy we went into the tank for?” Second, it cuts against the image of the president as the wimp in chief. Third, many people deserve to be fired — not just the obvious loonies and incompetents such as Van Jones and the fellow responsible for panicking New Yorkers with the Air Force One flyover. Fourth, Obama loves to play the “look ma, no hands game” so firing staff who “didn’t perform” maintains Obama’s aura as someone who really, honestly is the smartest, wisest president ever. He just had bad staff, you see.

So who’s on the list? Well, Joe Biden can’t be fired until 2012. Besides, he’s useful for reminding the country that we could be in worse hands. The obvious candidates: Hillary Clinton, George Mitchell, and James Jones. If there has been a worse trio of foreign-policy advisers who’ve made hash of just about everything they’ve touched I’d be hard pressed to name it. Their removal would be a big step toward “restoring our standing” in the world. (That’s what we were promised, you recall.) Think of it as a mega reset.

And then there are David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel. After all, they’ve been running everything — from the Afghanistan war seminars, to Middle East strategy, to the stimulus and health care. Indeed, their fingerprints are all over many of the administration’s worst calls. Moreover, firing them would help dispel one of those “bad” storylines that John Harris pointed out:

The rap is that his West Wing is dominated by brass-knuckled pols. It does not help that many West Wing aides seem to relish an image of themselves as shrewd, brass-knuckled political types. In a Washington Post story this month, White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, referring to most of Obama’s team, said, “We are all campaign hacks.” The problem is that many voters took Obama seriously in 2008 when he talked about wanting to create a more reasoned, non-partisan style of governance in Washington.

And finally there is Eric Holder, who has been front and center in some of the worst decisions of the administration — the ill-conceived and unresearched decision to close Guantanamo, the release of interrogation memos, the reinvestigation of CIA operatives, the now-reversed decision to release detainee-abuse photos, and the civilian trial of KSM (topped off by an Alberto Gonzales-like appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee). But I’m thinking it’s best to wait on that one. They’ll need a moment when the KSM trial is spinning out of control and Senate races in New York and Illinois are still winnable to announce that, by gosh, this handling of KSM is a mess and Holder is taking full responsibility on the way out the door.

Okay, it’s a lot of people to can. But it’s been a lousy first year.

Tim Cavanaugh (h/t Glenn Reynolds) writes:

I don’t understand the Washington cant that says [Larry] Summers, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and other manifest failures can’t be fired. Ronald Reagan, father of the debtorship society, fired six department heads in his first term, and made a point of first humiliating and then firing his deficit-hawk OMB director David Stockman. George W. Bush fired Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill on his way to winning re-election.

This is not only brilliant advice for the economic team, but it is worth considering on a broader basis. Multiple firings would serve many aims. First, they keep the media off of their new favorite storyline — namely, “Is this really the guy we went into the tank for?” Second, it cuts against the image of the president as the wimp in chief. Third, many people deserve to be fired — not just the obvious loonies and incompetents such as Van Jones and the fellow responsible for panicking New Yorkers with the Air Force One flyover. Fourth, Obama loves to play the “look ma, no hands game” so firing staff who “didn’t perform” maintains Obama’s aura as someone who really, honestly is the smartest, wisest president ever. He just had bad staff, you see.

So who’s on the list? Well, Joe Biden can’t be fired until 2012. Besides, he’s useful for reminding the country that we could be in worse hands. The obvious candidates: Hillary Clinton, George Mitchell, and James Jones. If there has been a worse trio of foreign-policy advisers who’ve made hash of just about everything they’ve touched I’d be hard pressed to name it. Their removal would be a big step toward “restoring our standing” in the world. (That’s what we were promised, you recall.) Think of it as a mega reset.

And then there are David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel. After all, they’ve been running everything — from the Afghanistan war seminars, to Middle East strategy, to the stimulus and health care. Indeed, their fingerprints are all over many of the administration’s worst calls. Moreover, firing them would help dispel one of those “bad” storylines that John Harris pointed out:

The rap is that his West Wing is dominated by brass-knuckled pols. It does not help that many West Wing aides seem to relish an image of themselves as shrewd, brass-knuckled political types. In a Washington Post story this month, White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, referring to most of Obama’s team, said, “We are all campaign hacks.” The problem is that many voters took Obama seriously in 2008 when he talked about wanting to create a more reasoned, non-partisan style of governance in Washington.

And finally there is Eric Holder, who has been front and center in some of the worst decisions of the administration — the ill-conceived and unresearched decision to close Guantanamo, the release of interrogation memos, the reinvestigation of CIA operatives, the now-reversed decision to release detainee-abuse photos, and the civilian trial of KSM (topped off by an Alberto Gonzales-like appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee). But I’m thinking it’s best to wait on that one. They’ll need a moment when the KSM trial is spinning out of control and Senate races in New York and Illinois are still winnable to announce that, by gosh, this handling of KSM is a mess and Holder is taking full responsibility on the way out the door.

Okay, it’s a lot of people to can. But it’s been a lousy first year.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

You have to strain to find the Washington Post‘s editors acknowledging that Obama’s Honduras policy has been a bust.

Elliott Abrams on the human-rights consequences of raising “multilateralism” to the end-all and be-all of American foreign policy: “Multilateral diplomacy means small talk with torturers, tea with dictators, negotiations with regimes that survive through sheer brutal repression — and it means putting such unpleasant facts aside to gather UN votes and seek consensus.”

David Ignatius has figured out what scares Democrats: “If the Fed’s projections are right, the public is going to be very angry next year — at big business and at the elected officials who have spent trillions of dollars without putting the country fully back to work.” Translation: they mortgaged our future economic security and growth for nothing.

Clarence Page is scared about the gap in enthusiasm, which shows that in 2010, “81 percent of self-described Republicans say they are certain or likely to vote, compared to 65 percent of independent voters and only 56 percent of Democrats.”

Charles Krauthammer keeps getting hung up on that whole Constitution thing: “I think what’s interesting about Obama is he is going to be at the U.N. [conference in Copenhagen] to announce the [new] policy about climate change on the basis of — nothing. He is going to be proposing what the House has passed — that he knows is not going to pass in the Senate. And we are actually a constitutional democracy where the president can’t announce a policy unilaterally. It actually has to pass the two houses of the Congress, and our allies abroad know that, and they’re going to look at this announcement he is going to make and think it … extremely strange.”

Apparently Americans don’t like panels of experts telling them what to do about health care: “A federal medical panel’s recommendation that women can now wait until age 50 to get a routine mammogram instead of age 40 is stirring up strong debate. The latest Rasmussen Reports survey finds that 81% of adults disagree with the panel’s recommendation. Just nine percent (8%) agree with the new guideline, and another nine percent (9%) are not sure.”

We certainly have seen lots of these already: “It’s one of the oldest tricks in the presidential playbook: when you want to focus attention on an issue, hold a meeting and call it a ‘summit.'” But if you really don’t have a plan to address unemployment and your agenda items are anti–job growth (e.g., raising taxes on small businesses), is it such a good idea to hold a summit?

The New York Times pans Obama’s Middle East approach: “Nine months later, the president’s promising peace initiative has unraveled. The Israelis have refused to stop all building. The Palestinians say that they won’t talk to the Israelis until they do, and President Mahmoud Abbas is so despondent he has threatened to quit. Arab states are refusing to do anything. Mr. Obama’s own credibility is so diminished (his approval rating in Israel is 4 percent) that serious negotiations may be farther off than ever.” And to boot, even the Times can see that George Mitchell and Rahm Emanuel bear responsibility for the debacle. So will either be canned?

You have to strain to find the Washington Post‘s editors acknowledging that Obama’s Honduras policy has been a bust.

Elliott Abrams on the human-rights consequences of raising “multilateralism” to the end-all and be-all of American foreign policy: “Multilateral diplomacy means small talk with torturers, tea with dictators, negotiations with regimes that survive through sheer brutal repression — and it means putting such unpleasant facts aside to gather UN votes and seek consensus.”

David Ignatius has figured out what scares Democrats: “If the Fed’s projections are right, the public is going to be very angry next year — at big business and at the elected officials who have spent trillions of dollars without putting the country fully back to work.” Translation: they mortgaged our future economic security and growth for nothing.

Clarence Page is scared about the gap in enthusiasm, which shows that in 2010, “81 percent of self-described Republicans say they are certain or likely to vote, compared to 65 percent of independent voters and only 56 percent of Democrats.”

Charles Krauthammer keeps getting hung up on that whole Constitution thing: “I think what’s interesting about Obama is he is going to be at the U.N. [conference in Copenhagen] to announce the [new] policy about climate change on the basis of — nothing. He is going to be proposing what the House has passed — that he knows is not going to pass in the Senate. And we are actually a constitutional democracy where the president can’t announce a policy unilaterally. It actually has to pass the two houses of the Congress, and our allies abroad know that, and they’re going to look at this announcement he is going to make and think it … extremely strange.”

Apparently Americans don’t like panels of experts telling them what to do about health care: “A federal medical panel’s recommendation that women can now wait until age 50 to get a routine mammogram instead of age 40 is stirring up strong debate. The latest Rasmussen Reports survey finds that 81% of adults disagree with the panel’s recommendation. Just nine percent (8%) agree with the new guideline, and another nine percent (9%) are not sure.”

We certainly have seen lots of these already: “It’s one of the oldest tricks in the presidential playbook: when you want to focus attention on an issue, hold a meeting and call it a ‘summit.'” But if you really don’t have a plan to address unemployment and your agenda items are anti–job growth (e.g., raising taxes on small businesses), is it such a good idea to hold a summit?

The New York Times pans Obama’s Middle East approach: “Nine months later, the president’s promising peace initiative has unraveled. The Israelis have refused to stop all building. The Palestinians say that they won’t talk to the Israelis until they do, and President Mahmoud Abbas is so despondent he has threatened to quit. Arab states are refusing to do anything. Mr. Obama’s own credibility is so diminished (his approval rating in Israel is 4 percent) that serious negotiations may be farther off than ever.” And to boot, even the Times can see that George Mitchell and Rahm Emanuel bear responsibility for the debacle. So will either be canned?

Read Less




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